- lack of success.“an economic policy that is doomed to failure”synonyms:lack of success, non-success, non-fulfilment, abortion, miscarriage, defeat, frustration, collapse, foundering, misfiring, coming to nothing, falling through2.the neglect or omission of expected or required action.“their failure to comply with the basic rules”synonyms:negligence, remissness, non-observance, non-performance, dereliction
Today, I experienced failure. In a very real, undeniable, and painful way I FAILED. And there’s nothing I can do about it. It sucks. I wish it wasn’t true. I feel it’s not fair. I have no recourse and there’s nothing I can do. Dangit.
This is what I failed at: I failed to get a job I really, really, really wanted to get. Oh, man, did I want it. But then I didn’t and now I feel like a dumbass. A real bafoon, I tell you. Sure this company must have their reasons but they won’t tell me what they are. They have a “no feedback” policy which means they can simply say no and not offer an explanation. Their thinking probably has something to do with the fact that they want the applicant to fit the role 100% naturally. That is, they don’t want someone who will basically pretend to be someone else just to get the job. I understand that. Working with someone like that can really suck.
As for why they passed on me, I feel it is probably because they couldn’t be sure I was capable of leaving my English school completely. I may be wrong but, given how far I got in the interview process and how well I liked everyone, this seems the most logical reason. How could they, after all, ensure my full commitment to the job duties if the position is remote? So, ironically, I probably would have had a better chance getting this job if I were still working as a hack eikawa teacher with little or no future in my professional field. The irony of that situations is not lost on me, I guarantee you. But onward life does go.
The truth is that all of us fail. That’s just how it goes. Sometimes it’s our own fault. Sometimes it’s someone else’s. But it’s usually a combination of both. My thinking is that failure is often a result of failed interaction more so than failed action. It’s not a one-sided phenomenon. It is multi-dimensional and highly relative. In business, it’s a case of interaction between you and the market. At work, it’s between you, your job duties and those you work with. In life, the interaction is between you and the forces you encounter in all their varying, wild and unpredictable forms. And that is an extremely vast and complex thing to say the least.
Failure is all around us. More than 99% of all life forms that have ever existed were total failures. We know this because they are extinct, inept little SOBs that they were (joke). So far, of all the planets both within and without our solar system the official story is that ours is the only one with life on it. So, if you are looking for a planet with life on it, most of them are going to be failures. Big time. Of the thousands and thousands of seeds a tree releases, almost none of them will ever even become a sapling let alone a full grown tree. So, most seeds are failures, too. So, if failure is likely more prevelant than success with so many things in the universe why is it such a big deal?
I would say the reasaon is that, too often, failure is seen as some kind of endpoint more than the change of course it really is. That is, it’s not necessarily that whatever it is we fail at is the utter end of something as much as it is simply a change of course. And sometimes a very unexpected change of course. Of course, failure at one endeavor can and often does lead to the utter end of the possibility of a desired result (at least inasmuch as our timeline is concerned). But it does not mean an end to the contiuum of experience nor to the knowledge and momentum derived from it.
Well, now that you put it that way, I guess I’ll put this darn tie back on.
It is often said failure is a teacher. Failure often leaves us with a deeper understanding of things even if it is only through the bitter lessons of our mistakes. But, of course, we must be able to see through the weight and fog of regret that tends to follow our mistakes if we are to actually learn anything useful. While regret can be paralyzing it is helpful to see that failure is a “lack of success” only insofar as much as we hang on to the desired state we equated with success; that is success has merely been delayed instead of denied. So, as I sit here contemplating this, having failed at something I worked hard on and got my hopes up for, I am left with, aside from the pain of smashed expectations, the resonating lessons of what went wrong. Ah, yes. The learning.
So, what are we to learn from failure? I suppose the answer depends very much on whatever it is we failed at. But, to speak generally and also to leave the interactive nature of failure aside, I would say the only thing we can learn from is what we did wrong; where we screwed up and caused things to not happen.
What is it that we did that contributed to the failure? What did you, personally, and no one else do that caused things to go wrong? Knowing this can be immensely helpful and save you a lot of time, emotional strain and general dumbassery down the road. Not knowing this will guarantee you a whole bunch of trouble regardless of how you think you’re doing.
Can it be avoided in the future? If the answer is “yes” then avoid it in the future. If the answer is “no” then you’d better get used to failing or find yourself a different gig. No one has ever succeeded by repeating the same dumb mistake over and over again.
Can we streamline our new understanding in a way that actually makes things easier in the future? Can we learn from our mistakes and change how we deal with things? Can you truly embody a new approach that works?
Can we remain more objective and less emotional toward our goals? This one is tricky. Starting something takes a lot of motivation and the best fuel for that is often our emotions. The world is full of marketing campaigns designed to get us to do things. We are conditioned by this and it can be hard to know it’s even happening. Success will come about through correct action regardless of how you feel about it. Keep you feelings out of it. Feelings are for celebration and a job well done. Until you actually succeed, it’s unlikely that anybody really cares how you feel.
Can we keep the ego and the daydreaming about success out of it? This is another tricky one. Too often an idea or endeavor is conflated with our “vision” or our “core mission” or somesuch baloney buzz word. Sure. It’s great to have a clear idea of what you want to do and where you want to go. Actually, the clearer the better is what I would say. The issue arises when you start focusing too much on the form rather than the content. The problem is falling for shiny object syndrome. Regardless if the shiny object is something you or someone else made the trap is the same. Speaking honestly, the world doesn’t really care about you, your ego or how clever you think you are. Focusing on these things will actually detract from your chances of success rather than add to them.
Can we be patient and measured because when did rushing things and stressing out ever help? This is a really dangerous point: rushing to succeed and pushing ourselves too hard to get there. This is where burnout happens and where dreams stop short of becoming reality. Unfortunately, things take time and, while their may be shortcuts to help you be more productive there is no shortcut for time. It’s kind of a weird situation to deal with but, if you really want to do something right, you need a certain amount of patience and maybe even a plan.
Can we stay on course even in the giddyness that follows those first small successes? (Because those are the ones that can determine to a huge degree the course of the following events). You’ve gotten to your first goal. Maybe it’s your first client or a certain level of monthly revenue. Maybe it’s a positive review on something you wrote or an offer you’d been working toward. Whatever it is, don’t let it go to your head. This has been the downfall of many a would be success story. Stay humble and stay focused to keep moving forward. Otherwise you will likely regret it.
Can we keep a “Beginner’s Mind”, as it were, toward the whole thing in general? Ah, yes. Staying fresh. Striking a balance between work and life. Making time for your projects and for your social life. Waking up with the energy and focus to get things done and feel good about it. Not with a sense of dread and fear about what you’ve gotten yourself into. Approaching each day with an openness to new ideas and methods and with a willingness to communicate.
These points may seem obvious but they do have a way of sneaking up on you. As I sit here now contemplating an opportunity lost and wrestle with an intense feeling of being stuck, I ponder on them. I reflect on my approach and realize there were things I could have done better. I could have been easier on myself about the whole process in general; lighter and more open-minded to the outcome. Less hyper-focused on making it happen as soon as possible and more focused on making it happen in the right way.
Yes, I was too eager to change my fortune. When I should have been focusing more on how to implement things smoothly I was focused too much on the end result. That was a mistake that cost me. If I’d taken the time to plan more thoroughly and to prepare myself better for the interviews I might have been booking a flight to meet my new employer instead of sitting here writing this blog post about it. Ah, what a thing.
So, what am I to do? Well, in situations like this where we find ourselves buttocks firmly planted in the dirt thrown from the proverbial horse as it were, I think it is useful to take stock of just where we are. Yes, I will have to continue running my English school for the next few months. To run about teaching classes and juggling the many little things it takes to keep it all a whirlin’. This is the lifestyle I was very much trying to change. But I must think positively and be more constructive. So, here is what I’m going to do:
-catalog and remember my experiences in the interviewing process
-update my resume
-continue building my web development/software skills
-continue seeking out remote positions with companies I would like to work for
-continue staying physicall fit
-continue focusing on the positive
-continue being grateful
-continue moving forward
You see, as I reflect on my life it may be easy to feel I should be farther along. To feel I should have more money. To be in a better, more satisfying position. To have more capacity to do what I want to do when I want to do it and how I want to do it, so to speak. It is, put simply, quite easy to get down on myself. It is all too easy to forget the enormous successes that most of us have had in our life. We quickly lose a sense of gratitude for what we have already achieved and for the people, elements and convergences that have helped us achieve it in the face of the shadow of our failures. We are, to put it simply, often unbalanced in our approach to reality and overly focused on what we don’t have or, somewhat conversely, had and then lost. This is natural because it can be painful. But it does not have to be a prolonged type of pain. It can be, instead, a type of pain to remind us not to go to that place again. To reorganize our approach more intelligently and less destructively. That is, after all, what pain does: remind us that whatever is causing the pain is doing so because we are taking the wrong approach. Simple enough but oh so difficult to keep in practice.
This reminds me of a famous saying here in my adopted home of sorts in Japan which I have come to love: 七転び八起き (nana korobi ya oki) which means “Fall down seven times, get up eight”. As old school and “true grit” as it may come off as, it is true. And that’s because it’s not in the initial failure that we really fail. It’s in failing to get up and continue moving forward. Because, honestly, what good ever came from staying on the floor? 🙂
In closing, I give you “several pineapples at a party” because it’s kind of funny and may help with taking things less seriously.